With 50 and 100-year floods seemingly every other week in New Zealand and Australia, unprecedented heat waves in Europe, and freak hailstorms in Mexico, just to name a few recent severe weather events, the impacts of climate change are well and truly being felt around the world.
While governments can set policy and regulation to influence behaviour and citizens can make individual choices about consumption, business has the power to deliver large scale change.
In New Zealand some of the biggest businesses are doing just that through the Climate Leaders Coalition (CLC), the country’s largest alliance of business leaders dedicated to climate action. Collectively, the CLC signatories account for almost 60% of the country’s gross emissions, create around 38% of GDP, employ more than 220,000 people, and have a combined turnover of $122 billion.
Our 3R Group Chief Executive Adele Rose is a founding signatory and is leading the charge for the Hawke’s Bay as the only signatory headquartered here. However, it’s not a title we are keen on keeping and we would love to see more organisations from the Bay joining the coalition.
We’re also one of the smaller signatories, especially compared with the likes of Spark, Z Energy, Toyota, PWC, The Warehouse Group and Farmlands, to name a few. The list of signatories is impressive and includes some of New Zealand’s biggest telcos, energy providers, banks, insurers, retailers, and construction companies, among others.
That doesn’t mean small businesses should be put off joining though – quite the opposite. The coalition is focussed on offering support for the smaller members.
Most SMEs don’t have the luxury of a sustainability manager, but this is where the collective efforts of the CLC can help – small businesses can benefit from the case studies and work done by larger organisations or from the ideas contributed by other small businesses.
Collectively, SMEs also have a larger role to play in tackling climate change. According to the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment, over a quarter of all businesses in New Zealand have between one and 50 employees. The collective impact this group can have is substantial.
This is particularly relevant for businesses here in the Bay where the impacts of climate change are plainly obvious, such as the coastal erosion already threatening homes.
Hawke’s Bay is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to its large primary industry which relies on stable weather and growing conditions. This makes us particularly sensitive to extremes such as longer, hotter and drier summers followed by flooding in the winter – a repeated combination of which would be devastating to an area where agriculture is the backbone of the economy.
However, action on climate change isn’t just about preventing the worst. Transitioning to a low-emissions, low-waste business model brings efficiencies, innovation and an increased social licence to operate. Consumers, particularly younger generations, expect the brands they interact with to be doing more to improve sustainability and take action on climate change.
Consider that using energy and resources more efficiently results in lower costs, and that thinking long-term and identifying your climate risks will make your business more resilient. This is all good business practice and, with the support of CLC members, it’s achievable.
After all, businesses adapting, innovating and changing the way they operate in response to the world around them is nothing new – we just have to look at it through the lens of climate change.
The CLC has been running since 2018 with Spark CEO Jolie Hodson recently taking over as Convenor after Z Energy CEO Mike Bennetts stepped down. The coalition has steadily built on the goals it sets out for signatories around reducing emissions, increasing transparency, supporting stakeholders, and embedding action on climate change into ‘business as usual’.
In June this year the coalition released its new Statement of Ambition, which aligns its goals with international best-practice, science-based emission reduction targets.
As Jolie pointed out when talking about the new targets, each signatory faces different challenges in meeting the goals. However, the CLC is committed to supporting all signatories through initiatives like monthly masterclasses, business-to-business mentoring and by sharing best practice.
Tackling climate change is a shared responsibility of all of us, with business having to do some heavy lifting – none of which can be achieved alone. Luckily, we have a growing group of large and powerful businesses and organisations which are taking steps to fight climate change. I encourage you to join us.